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Unless you know where the Fairfax County neighborhood of Lake Barcroft is located, you might miss it. If you happen to be driving along Columbia Pike past Seven Corners where it begins to feel more wooded and suburban you might notice a big concrete dam. The Lake stretches beyond the dam, but the lake itself is hard to see because of the trees and homes that line its shores and surrounding hills.
Originally created by the City of Alexandria as a reservoir, the neighborhood has evolved into a desirable enclave of working professionals and their families.
“Lake Barcroft is located on two streams — Holms Run and Tripps Run — and these streams were dammed to make the Alexandria City Reservoir about 1913, and so this was used as a reservoir for Alexandria. The wooded slopes and hillsides around the neighborhood were preserved for that purpose. They abandoned the reservoir in the ‘30’s, I believe, and developers bought the land and developed it in the early 1950s,” according to 62 year-old resident Betsy Washington.
It may have begun as a municipal reservoir, but the wooded slopes and hillsides of Lake Barcroft have proven to be an ideal setting for an impressive collection of mid-century homes.
“We have a lot of the mid 50’s early 60’s split level houses. Many have been renovated and updated and become quite contemporary, but it’s really a wonderful mix. It’s not one style of house,” says Washington.
As impressive as the architecture might be, the Lake itself is the main draw of the neighborhood. Washington says that the Lake often serves as a soothing tonic for its residents.
“The lake is the heart of the community. So you come home from work, and you’re stressed and you have had a hectic day, and you look out your window and your neighbors and friends are out on the lake kayaking. They’re in these battery operated barges cruising around, and all your cares go away. It’s just a fabulous neighborhood,” effuses Washington.
With all of the water-based activities and its powers of relaxation, Lake Barcroft has an enduring allure. For Washington, leaving Lake Barcroft would be like a bad dream.
“I could never leave Lake Barcroft. I moved in wondering if it would ever get old or I would get tired of looking out the window at the lake, and it’s never happened. And occasionally I have nightmares that I’ve moved to a bigger, fancier house with more amenities. And I wake up just longing for Lake Barcroft,” Washington explains.
Tucked behind the mighty fort above the Potomac River in Fort Washington, Maryland is the neighborhood of Fort Washington Estates. The cozy neighborhood of 1960’s vintage homes is ideal because it’s close to Washington, D.C. but surrounded by forest and parkland, according to 52-year-old resident Jay Krueger.
“The community is located about 15 miles due south of D.C. along the Potomac River almost directly across from Mt. Vernon and adjoining Ft. Washington National Park,” Krueger explains.
Being so close to Washington, the neighborhood’s location is a powerful lure for an increasing diverse—and increasingly more youthful—population.
“Predominantly, I think our demographic is African American but also we have an Ethiopian and Korean make up, as well, in the area. Community is sort of changing, I think, from being an older retirement community that was established originally back in the 1960’s and is now turning over again where we are getting younger families again moving into the area.”
Change may be coming to Fort Washington Estates, but historic Fort Washington stands nearby as a bastion of a bygone era. Today, the Fort remains as a reminder of past threats and wars — including the War of 1812.
“Fort Washington Park was originally built as the protector of Washington. It was the sole fort at the time it was built to protect it. Fort Washington Park was destroyed in the War of 1812, not due to any enemy fire or anything, but for the fear of losing the fort to the enemies at that point, and it was subsequently rebuilt,” says Krueger.
The foreign enemies and their wars are no longer threats for the fort to defend against. Instead these days, the fort and its surrounding forest land defend deer, bald eagles and other wildlife which help make Fort Washington Estates enjoyable.
“Something that you would notice right away and you would be surprised given our close proximity to the city is the abundance of wildlife. Deer everywhere. They are not fazed by contact with us. They are walking down the streets of our neighborhood in our community. With the abundance of park land that we have surrounding us here in Fort Washington Estates, I would say wildlife is something that we really do notice everyday—bald eagles flying overhead from some of the bald eagle nests that are close by here,” Krueger effuses.
For Krueger, it’s hard to beat the combination of location and nature in Fort Washington Estates.
“It’s a wonderful place to live here in Fort Washington Estates with proximity to our nation’s capital but seeing the wildlife that we have here.”
Music: "No, Girl" by Title Tracks from It Was Easy / "Go Your Own Way" by Hit Co. Masters from Instrumental Hits of the 1970s